Sat | Sep 23, 2023

Norman Manley Law School wins mock trial competition

Published:Wednesday | April 12, 2023 | 12:10 AMSashana Small/Staff Reporter
From left: Keren Campbell, Sasha Wynter, Shanae Warburton and Shaqkeera Douglas.
From left: Keren Campbell, Sasha Wynter, Shanae Warburton and Shaqkeera Douglas.

When Norman Manley Law School final-year students Keren Campbell, Sasha Wynter, Shanae Warburton, and Shaqkeera Douglas arrived in Trinidad to participate in the Margaret Forte Inter-Schools Mock Trial Competition last month, they carried a legacy of winning with them.

The UWI Mona-based law school has won eight of the last nine competitions.

Additionally, teams from their school had recently participated in and won the Lex Caribbean Client Interviewing Competition, and the Caribbean Court of Justice International Law Moot Competition

But there was no pressure on this all-female team as they were well prepared. They had undergone weeks of intense training, which began the day after they were selected in January.

Furthermore, they had the backing of their experienced coach, attorney-at-law and tutor at the Norman Manley Law School, Norman Davis, who was assisted by attorney and tutor Karen Seymour Johnson, former Margaret Forte (competition) team members.

It also helped that each team member shared a passion for criminal law and advocacy, which further ignited their will to win.

“I wouldn’t say we were under pressure to take home the shield, but we knew we had to, and really and truly we wanted to. We knew how much the competition means to the school because of the pride the school takes in the competition,” Warburton told The Gleaner.

The competition was started in the 1990s by students at the Norman Manley Law School, and Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad and Tobago. It was named after late Queen’s Counsel Margaret Forte, who was a director of the Norman Manley Law School Legal Aid Clinic when it started, and who was insistent that trial advocacy become a part of the school’s curriculum.

It has since evolved to include the Eugene Dupuch Law School in The Bahamas, and trial advocacy is now a part of the curriculum for all three participating schools.


Teams compete in three mock trials over three consecutive days, based on a fictional case before a jury, with each school given the opportunity to represent the prosecution and defence once. They are then assessed by a high court judge, a defence attorney, and a prosecutor from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The team from Norman Manley Law School was successful in two mock trials, once for the defence against the Eugene Dupuch team, and once for the prosecution against the team from Hugh Wooding Law School. Warburton shared that the win was more than just the team carrying on the legacy of their school, but the feeling of “gratitude to know that we have worked so hard for something and we actually achieve it”.

This feeling, she said, was heightened by the praise poured on them by the judges.

“What the judge said in the finals is that, ‘a lot of attorneys do not hold these skills in real life, but as students you have come here and you have performed like this and it’s very, very commendable’,” she said.

She lauded the law school for the integral role it plays in providing fun opportunities like these to apply knowledge learnt.

“We as students complain about the school being too hard and all of that … but, at the end of the day, you realise that it was definitely worth it. And it shows through the competition, it shows through the students who graduate and how well a lot of them perform,” she said.

She said the diligence demonstrated by her teammates and herself in preparing for the competition reflects what was instilled in them at the institution.

“The hard work, the pressure, the high expectations are very consistent throughout every single thing at the law school. It’s not just the competitions. I feel like, if we had mediocre teaching, and they were very rough with us with the competition, I do not think we would have performed as well as we have.”

Meanwhile, coach Davis, in commenting on the “wonderful chemistry” between the aspiring lawyers, told The Gleaner that this, along with their assiduity, was integral to their winning.

“The winning formula is long hours of drill in trial advocacy skills, the support of former team members, (and) the determination of our students, despite their academic commitments. They gave as much time as they can, including weekends - it was a group effort,” he said.